1 Thessalonians 4 - The Second Coming

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1 Thess 4
The Second Coming of Christ

Here is our text today from chapter 4:

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died,
so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again,
and we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have already died knowing him.

15 According to the word of the Lord,
we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have already died.

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever.

18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.


Ok. We are about to get into what is called "The Second Coming"

Not all branches of Christianity believe in the second coming of Christ. There are branches of our faith that see this as metaphorical language not to be taken literally.

This is mainly a doctrine held by evangelicals.
But even among evangelicals there are significant differences.

This is all about the "End Times." And there are many terms that come into play:

[Slide-1]
- the "coming" or "appearing" (parousia)
- the rapture
- the Great Tribulation
When is the rapture going to happen?

[Slide-2]
- pre tribulation rapture
- mid-tribulation rapture
- post tribulation rapture

[Slide-3]
- the Millennial reign
This is the description we get at the very end of John's Revelation in chapter 20. Christ will reign on the earth for 1,000 years.

That sounds simple, right?
Wrong!
There is great debate as to WHEN this 1,000 year will happen:
- pre-millennialism
- post-millennialism
- amillennialism

My head starts spinning.

I am not intending to make light of all this, but I do want you know WHY I am presenting it.

As the pastor-teacher of this church I am called to do two things:
1. Faithfully teach the truths that are clear in the biblical text.
2. To love, challenge and encourage the saints.

In 1993 as I approached my ordination I knew that I would have to give an account for certain doctrinal views.

By this time I had already read the Bible cover to cover more than 10 times. I had already spent countless hours studying, however at this point I was not yet academically trained.

But I do want you to know that my views on these topics are pretty much the same now as they were in 1995.

These were doctrines that I had not been able to come to any clear position on.

I spent close to two years reading, thinking about and listening to lectures on eschatology: the End Times.

I travelled to hear 2-3 different "experts" walk through their views - they each had charts set up across the platform.
[Slide-4] A Revelation Chart

I started seeing that these "experts" did not agree with each other. They each read the evidence differently.

I also found it extremely difficult follow all the intricate details.

When I took my ordination exam it asked that IF I could not give 100% agreement to ANY of these doctrinal positions I should write out my explanation on a separate piece of paper.

I was the last candidate to leave...
I wrote seven pages of explanation.

This is my point:
These categories get complicated and I have no intention of trying to convince any of you on ANY details.

My position in 1995 when I was ordained was...and still is that I do not have a position on these things.

The evidence is just not clear enough...for me.
AND these issues do not pertain to salvation.

So, in my opinion, it does not matter how you see the details of the end of the world.

Jesus says "It is not for you to know the times or the periods that the Father has set..."

Jewish apocalyptic
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Many of you remember that after King Solomon died his two sons were at odds and split the nation of Israel into what we call "The Divided Kingdom:"

The kingdom of Israel in the north...and
The kingdom of Judah in the south...and

During this period is when the OT prophets started coming on the scene - warning the people of coming judgement if they failed to keep the Law.

Israel was attacked and finally defeated in 722 BC by Assyria.
They were taken away into captivity...now the 10 "lost" tribes of Israel.

The kingdom of Judah was finally defeated by the Babylonians in 587 BC.
We have pottery pieces dating from this period showing Jews being led away in chains into captivity.

It was during the time of Jeremiah and Habakuk. Isaiah had warned the people around 100 years before things got really bad and he spoke about the Gentiles being brought into God's family.

The prophets started giving a different message, what is now called Jewish apocalpyticism - a message speaking of a future time when God will establish His kingdom...

and things would be different.

The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
...with the people of Judah.

I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts...

For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.

Jeremiah 31

13 In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven...

14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
- Daniel 7:13,14


3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle.
4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west...
Zechariah
14:3,4

The Book of Enoch was circulating for a few hundred years prior to Jesus. Two or three NT writers borrow phrases that are found first in Enoch.

Enoch and the War Scrolls continue this pattern that one day God will return to earth in the form of His Messiah to judge mankind.

In many of these texts the Messiah comes on the clouds and is accompanied by angels.

In a nutshell, this is Jewish apocalyptic thinking. This is all meant to "reveal" the hidden knowledge of WHAT God will do to end the world and HOW He plans to do it.

One of the problems for us with these types of writings is: these texts seemed fairly clear with how the Messiah would come...

Except that when He did come, as a baby and not on the clouds...the Jews missed it.

And this is the challenge of the end of the world texts.
How far do we take the literal reading and how much credit do we give to metaphor and symbolism.

BUT we also have to consider that we have statements made by Jesus,
...by Paul,
and John's Revelation.

So we cannot discount this language, but we know that it is quite possible that a literal reading is problematic.

All the experts disagree because there are too many loose ends...too many places where it is difficult to know a definite timeline of these events.

So that is my INTRODUCTION.
Not to worry...my focus will not be that long.

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PRAYER
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I am going to start with a very simple text from Acts 1:

Jesus has spent 40 days appearing and disappearing with the disciples after the resurrection.

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
- Acts 1:6-11

This, to me, is a clear and simple text.
Jesus is asked if the end is near and He clearly states that it is not for us to know...only the Father knows.

Then He tells the disciples to go and share the good news to the ends of the earth.

Let's continue the text into Chapter 5:
5:1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you,

2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

3 While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.


And then Paul continues by stating that we are children of the Light.

We are in a battle - the kingdom of Light against the kingdom of Darkness.

I do think culture will continue to move away from God.

The scriptures seem clear that Jesus will return to earth to execute some form of judgement.

As we read the Thessalonian letters it seems clear that Paul expected the soon return of Jesus...in his lifetime.

Basically...
I do believe in the rapture.
I do believe in the 1,000 year reign.
I do believe in "The Great Tribulation," but I certainly think Christians have faced tribulation over and over again.

BUT none of what I think about these things affects my faith in the resurrection or in my relationship with Christ.

In other words, I do not think your salvation is at stake.

I will go with the simple statement in the Apostle's Creed which has historical markers back to 80 years after the resurrection:

Speaking of Jesus:
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.
From there He will come to judge
the living and the dead.

Live your life for the kingdom of God.
Grab His grace...and power...to live for Him.
Don't live your life in pursuit of SELF...
Do not live your life in pursuit of the American dream.

God wants to bless you. You need to work.
You have to make money to live.
But the promise of Jesus coming back also comes with the expectation that we will all have to stand before Him and give an account of HOW we lived.

I do not live my life in fear of God's rejection.
I do live my life in hope of pleasing God.

My challenge to you this morning in light of the promise that Jesus WILL return to earth is this:

Live for Him!
Don't live to be blessed by God...that will take care of itself.

Live to serve Jesus.
He deserves your service.



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